CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON - The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month, dropping below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years. The rate declined because more people found work, a trend that could have an impact on undecided voters in the final month before the presidential election.
The Labor Department said Friday that employers added 114,000 jobs in September. The economy also created 86,000 more jobs in July and August than first estimated. Wages rose in September and more people started looking for work.
The revisions show employers added 146,000 jobs per month from July through September, up from 67,000 in the previous three months. The unemployment rate fell from 8.1 percent in August, matching its level in January 2009 when President Barack Obama took office.
The decline could help Obama, who is coming off a disappointing debate performance against GOP challenger Mitt Romney.
Stock futures rose modestly after the report. Dow Jones industrial average futures, up 30 points just before the report came out, were up 45 points after it was released.
The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note climbed to 1.73 percent from 1.68 percent just before the report, a sign that investors were more willing to embrace risk and moving money from bonds into stocks.
The job market has been improving, sluggishly but steadily. Jobs have been added for 24 straight months. There are now 325,000 more than when Obama took office.
The September gains were led by the health care industry, which added 44,000 jobs - the most since February. Transportation and warehousing also showed large gains. The revisions showed that governments actually added 63,000 jobs in July and August, compared with earlier estimates that showed losses.
Still, many of the jobs added last month were part time. The number of people with part-time jobs who wanted full-time work rose 7.5 percent to 8.6 million.